ROCKY MOUNT — Former Starmount High School football coach B.W. Holt is in his third coaching Rocky Mount Academy (RMA.)
Holt, who left Starmount after the 1998 season, coached the Rams for 19 years.
RMA plays eight-man football. After winning four games his first season, the team went 10-2 last season and won the eight-man state championship.
The team scored just 36 points in 2011, giving up more than 55 points a game. In 2013, Holt’s second year, it averaged 47 points per game and gave up about 20 point per game.
“The program had never been strong,” Holt said. “It was a tough situation to go into.”
After six consecutive years in the playoffs coaching at Rocky Mount High School (RMHS), Holt retired from the school and coaching in 2009.
“I thought that was going to be the end of it,” he said. “I still had the itch. Nobody would hire me.”
Pat Smith, who moved from RMHS to RMA in 2009 as a baseball coach, told Holt there was an opening for a football coach at RMA.
“I didn’t have an interest in it,” Holt said, adding he was willing to help the school find a coach when RMA Headmaster Beth Coverlo asked, “How about you?”
“She just kept on. Long story short, I ended up taking it.”
“He absolutely took a failing football program, an almost extinct program — and turned it around,” RMA Athletic Director Gayle High said. “He’s gotten all kinds of community support to improve the program.”
The RMA program took a hit when Colt Brake was paralyzed in 2010 as a result of a football injury. The program survived, but with only “10 or 11” players and went 0-9 in 2011.
“He’s taught them football,” High said. “The love of the game. He checks their grades. He mentors them.
“The dedication he inspires in those kids is amazing.”
The program now has 40 players between in junior varsity and varsity teams. There were about 20 players when Holt took over.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” Holt said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Holt said he started the same weight program at RMA he had at Starmount. And he runs the double-wing formation.
He said there are some interesting differences between 11- and eight-man football. The field, for one is 43 yards wide, rather than 53 yards wide. It is still 100 yards long. Still, he said, there is more room to cover.
“We end up with a two-deep look in the secondary,” he said. “It’s a speed game. Your pursuit angles are so tough.”
Holt said a lot of the success goes to his staff. “Everybody on our staff has played college football in the last six, seven years except one,” he said. “We’ve got a great staff.”
RMA has two players from last year’s team who are walking on at East Carolina University: defensive lineman Eric Robertson and defensive back Andre David.
Holt said 13 or 14 teams in North Carolina and Virginia participate in the sport.
RMA has a K-12 enrollment of 422, High said. Holt said about 150 of those are of high-school age.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or Twitter @elkinareasports.